Morning, and still no mountains. Despite the cool weather, I perspire profusely during the day and change my shirt every lunch time. My solar hat, while causing the usual curiosity especially from the children, keeps my brow dry. When I remove it, sweat drips continuously down my face.
We walk down more steep steps, along more dusty winding paths, avoiding some slightly aggressive buffalo. Friendly people everywhere. An English teacher stops us to ask for donations towards a school toilet. I suspect they’ve been doing this for years; I remember a friend from Kenya telling me about donating towards a school toilet four years ago. Trinket stalls are at almost every corner, and we are subject to some very aggressive selling. I buy a colourful cotton tablecloth, only to discover it is made in India. (However the following day I treat myself to a genuine 200 knot Tibetan carpet made in Pokhara Tibetan village).
After four hours we pause at a roadside dive and are entertained by two gentlemen high on drugs while we eat our lunch. The trek food, Tibetan in style, is excellent. They pile our plates with deliciously spiced vegetables, sauces, dahl, rice, local breads, salads, meat; breakfasts are oat or rice porridge, muesli, egg, toast, honey, marmalade, tea, coffee, chocolate and fruit. They boil all drinking water and I have no stomach problems at all, although some of the others suffer, especially in the latter days of the tour.
Another 45 minutes’ walk to meet our bus and wind back down to Pokhara. We gather in the garden of the Tibet Resort for a traditional trek conclusion. Our camp helpers and Sherpas – 35 people in all – sit in rows on the grass facing the 16 of us while Marion gives a little speech of thanks. In turn, we each call out an individual’s name, thank him (there are two women porters) and hand over an envelope of money. There is much clapping, mutual appreciation and sentiment. We are then each presented with a white silk scarf; a moving ceremony. I take no photographs because I left my camera upstairs, and my legs are so stiff they just refuse to make the effort.
A gentle day follows. Friday and Saturday are the Nepali weekend days, and we are taken to Lake Phewa Tal to fend for oursleves. I leave the others to their shopping and wander down to the lake. I take a paddle boat to the Varahi Temple, a local worship place on a nearby island. The paddlers ply a busy trade to this bustling little place. Pigeons coo and a fresh breeze blows up the lake. I sit on a stone and doze a bit, watching people enjoy the sunshine along the lake shore, then I turn back to witness freshly-daubed families having their photos taken outside the temple. Here, I am the only tourist.
I catch a boat back with two local families, friendly and chattering and laughing non-stop. Then I wander slowly back to the hotel on foot, taking an hour, stopping to buy fruit to nibble. The people are desperate for trade, and tourists are few because of the political problems. Today’s paper tells of several teachers being killed and others victimised by the Maoists. I hope our itinerary is not further disrupted.